California painter denied workers' comp for permanent disability

Workers' Compensation Appeals Board explains how to receive an increased impairment rating for psychiatric injury

California painter denied workers' comp for permanent disability

A recent worker’s compensation case cited the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment, which lists the activities of daily living as self-care and personal hygiene, communication, physical activity, sensory function, nonspecialized hand activities, travel, sexual function, and sleep.

The case of Schaan vs. Jerry Thompson & Sons; Liberty Mutual involved a worker’s compensation claim. The applicant alleged that, while employed as a painter by Jerry Thompson & Sons, he sustained injury to his bilateral shoulders, psyche, sleep, and digestive system, as well as gastroesophageal reflux disease, sexual dysfunction, and hypertension.

The workers’ compensation administrative law judge decided that the applicant did not sustain a catastrophic injury under section 4660.1(c)(2)(B) of California’s Labor Code. The judge found that the applicant’s injury caused 74% permanent disability and that he should not receive compensation for permanent disability for his psychiatric condition.

Read more: Workers' compensation tribunal tackles alleged continuous trauma for industrial injuries

The applicant asked for reconsideration. He argued that his injury was catastrophic, that he was 100% permanently disabled, and that he was entitled to an increase in his permanent disability for the impairment that his psychiatric condition caused.

The panel of the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board of California affirmed the judge’s findings and award.

To receive an increased impairment rating for psychiatric injury, the applicant should show that events of employment directly caused his psychiatric injury. Alternatively, if the psychiatric injury was a compensable consequence of the physical injury, the applicant should establish that the psychiatric injury resulted either from a catastrophic injury or from being a victim of a violent act or being directly exposed to a significant violent act.

In this case, the panel determined that the applicant did not sustain a catastrophic injury and could not receive an increase in his permanent disability rating based on the impairment resulting from his psychiatric condition.

The panel accepted that the applicant went through multiple surgeries to his shoulders. However, he did not sustain permanent impairment to multiple body parts, and his treatment’s intensity and seriousness did not amount to serious and life-threatening treatment, the panel said.

Read more: Workers’ compensation claim granted reconsideration

Though the impact of the applicant’s physical injury was fairly severe on his sexual functioning and sleep, he was capable of doing the other activities of daily living, the panel added. According to the medical evaluator, the applicant could perform physical activities like walking, lifting, household chores, and yard work. He was also capable of self-care and personal hygiene, nonspecialized hand activities, and communication except typing.

Lastly, the panel found that the applicant failed to disprove that his injury caused 74% permanent disability. The medical and vocational evidence did not show that the applicant was 100% permanently disabled, the panel concluded.

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